Immigrants Face Delays

The news:

In October, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services began administering a revised naturalization test for citizenship applicants.

Behind the news:

The average processing time for citizenship applicants in the Chicago office of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services was five months, according to Marilu Cabrera, spokeswoman for the office.

For some, it’s more than a year. Muna Hammad, citizenship instructor and social services case manager at the Chicagobased Arab American Action Network, said that at any given time, her agency deals with about 20 cases that are pending for more than one year.

According to Cabrera, long delays could stem from a variety of reasons. Applicants could be missing necessary documents or still in the process of proving “good moral character.” The required FBI name check can sometimes add to the delays.

FBI spokesman Paul Bresson said that an “overwhelming majority” of name checks go through within 90 days. As of Sept. 30, more than 28,000 immigration name checks were being processed nationwide. Of those, 4,044 had been pending for more than 180 days and 799 for more than one year.

After Sept. 11, 2001, the name check system became more extensive, Bresson said. The names are now run through to check if they match any names that have surfaced in the agency’s past investigations. Before the change, the system only looked for names that matched with main subjects of past investigations.

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